By Greg Goodyear and Larry Weiner
On Saturday, the Centaurs returned for the tournament portion of the Bonita “Air Assault” passing contest with the officials determining the top seeds and who the Centaurs would play in the first round. The Number 1 seed was the Valencia Vikings and the Number 2 seed was the Hart Indians. Both schools compete in the same league and are bitter rivals and are two of the best teams in Southern California. Since there were 30 teams in the tournament, the first two seeds received a bye in the first round.
Culver City was undefeated in pool play but their 2 ties cost them a top 4 seed. This was important because in addition to the 2 first round byes the third and fourth seeds generally get easy first round matchups. The Cents drew the Diamond Bar Brahmas, a historically strong program in the East San Gabriel Valley. Coach Wright decided to start sophomore Zevi Eckhaus, and he led the Centaurs to 2 quick scores and a 12-0 lead. He threw touchdown passes to Tanner Duve and Tyler Luckett. On the Cents third series, Eckhaus looked left and turned and fired a pass to the deep right corner of the end zone and hit his receiver.
Unfortunately, the time had expired (only 3.7 seconds are allowed to throw a pass in this type of tournament), so it was considered to be a sack and the score was nullified. Since the defense was playing well and Coach Wright wanted to give his other quarterbacks a chance, he inserted senior Tee Barnes into the game. Barnes could not get a first down, and the Brahmas marched down the field to score and making it 12-6. Next up at quarterback was junior Nick Lucero, and he was also unable to get a first down. Back came the Brahmas to score and tie the game at 12.
Coach Wright quickly put Eckhaus back into the game and he also failed to get a first down. Diamond Bar then scored on its third consecutive possession to take an 18-12 lead. With little time left to play, Eckhaus got a quick first down and then completed a touchdown pass on the last play of the game to tie the game at 18.
In overtime, both teams get a maximum of 4 plays to score from the 20-yard line. If both score, they continue on until one of the teams is ahead after they each get another chance. However, if either team throws an interception the game is over and the other team wins. Culver City got the first possession of the overtime and Eckhaus hit Jamal Glaspie with a touchdown pass to make it 24-18. Diamond Bar came back and tied it up again at 24 on a fourth-down play. The Brahmas then went on offense and did not score, and the Cents, with a chance to win the game, also did not score. Now it was the Centaurs turn, and Eckhaus threw another TD pass to Glaspie, making the score 30-24. Diamond Bar again answered knotting it at 30. They continued on offense and the Culver defense held. That was all the Cents needed as Eckhaus threw a dramatic touchdown to Duve to make the final score 36-30.
In round 2, the Centaurs faced the Norco Varsity, who were not as tired as the Cents because they did not compete in pool play. Norco had sent their JV the prior day to qualify for the tournament while Culver not only had to play 5 games the day before but was also extended to 4 overtimes in the round 1 matchup. Norco’s quarterback is the all-time leading passer for one season in their school’s history and is an outstanding thrower. They also had several very athletic players and a 6’7” transfer quarterback from open division powerhouse Corona Centennial, who looked like an NFL potential QB. In other words, this matchup was Goliath versus a very tired David.
Eckhaus played the entire game at quarterback and threw 4 touchdowns, the last one to Chris Miller with time running out, to tie the game at 24-24. For the second game in a row, the Centaurs had to play overtime. Both teams traded 3 touchdowns each to keep the score tied at 42-42. In the fourth overtime, the Cents finally stopped Norco and Eckhaus completed his eighth touchdown, again to Miller, to seal the victory 48-42.
In the quarterfinals, the Centaur defense stepped up and shut down a strong and athletic Monrovia team until the Cents put in their reserves for the last possession. Monrovia scored but it was much too little too late in a 20-6 Culver City victory. Eckhaus threw 3 TD passes, to Josh Ford, Duve, and Glaspie, and Dominick Tatum picked off a pass on Monrovia’s first possession.
With the victory in the quarterfinals, the Centaurs earned the right to play in the semifinals in Bonita’s home stadium. The Centaurs faced their toughest pool play rival, the physical, fast, and athletic Rancho Cucamonga Cougars. Quarterback Eckhaus went the distance in this game, and the Cents opened with a 12-0 lead with TD passes going to Glaspie and Ford. On the Cougars second possession, Dominick Tatum intercepted a pass making the score 14-0. Rancho came storming back with two quick scores to make it 14-12. Culver City marched down the field, and Eckhaus completed a short TD pass to Ford to extend the lead to 20-12. Then the Cents defense stopped the Cougars twice, and they scored another touchdown from Eckhaus to Luckett to make the final score 26-12.
In a rousing finale, the Centaurs faced an old nemesis, the Upland Highlanders. The Highlanders are coached by Tim Salter, brother of our former head coach and now Athletic Director Tom Salter. Upland is traditionally a well-coached, deep, and athletic program, and they have won several CIF titles under Coach Salter. Upland jumped out to a 6-0 lead and shut down the Cent offense on their first series. They then marched down the field again to take a 12-0 lead. The Cents quickly struck back on an Eckhaus to Chris Miller pass to make it 12-6. The Highlanders scored again making it 18-6. After two quick “3 and outs,” the Cents drove down the field and Eckhaus hit Glaspie for a TD pass to cut the lead to 18-12. Upland and Culver traded touchdowns to bring the score to 24-18. Then Glaspie made the play of the game, stepping in front of a Highlander receiver near the goal line to intercept a pass making the score 24-20. The Centaurs put together a nice drive and scored on an Eckhaus to Glaspie pass to give them their first lead at 26-24 with less than one minute to play. The Cents erupted in celebration but this celebration was premature. The Highlander quarterback hit a wide-open receiver down the middle exploiting the Cents “cover two” defense and scoring with less than 30 seconds left on the clock. The timer referee announced to the crowd that there were 20 seconds left. Eckhaus threw for 20 yards and on the last play, of the game he threw deep down the field to a covered Glaspie who jumped up in the end zone and got both hands on the pass, but a Cougar defender knocked the ball away sending the Centaurs to their first passing league game loss of the summer 30-26. In the aftermath, Culver’s head coach, Jamal Wright, called them together and praised them for their fight and all-out effort in this tournament, and in all of their summer league play, and urged them to continue to work hard with the goal of winning a CIF championship!
Two days later in reflecting on the tournament, senior offensive and defensive star Jamal Glaspie stated, “we have been working really hard to be focused, to be disciplined, and to be conditioned, and to improve our transition on the field. We have been getting the timing down with our new quarterbacks, and the DB’s are using their form to help them read offensive sets faster which should translate into a big season.”